System Builder Marathon, December 2010: $500 PC

Test System Configuration And Benchmarks

$500 Gaming PC System Test Configuration
Component
Base Settings
Overclock Setting
CPU
AMD Athlon II X3 445 (Rana), 3.1 GHz, 1.3 V
2000 MT/s HyperTransport Link, 2000 MT/s CPU-NB,
No L3 Cache
3.875 GHz (15.5 x 250 MHz), 1.4 V
2000 MT/s HT Link, 2250 MT/s CPU-NB
CPU Cooler
Rosewill RCX-ZAIO-92
Unchanged
Motherboard
ASRock M3A770DE
AMD 770 / SB710, BIOS P1.60 (06/08/10)
Unchanged
RAM
4 GB Mushkin PC3-10600 kit 996586
2 x 2048 MB, DDR3-1333, CL 9-9-9-24 1T at 1.5 V
DDR3-1333, CL 9-9-9-24 1T at 1.5V
Graphics
<br>Sparkle SXX460768D5UNM GeForce GTX 460 768 MB
675/1350 MHz GPU/Shaders, 900 MHz (3600 MT/s) Memory
823/1640 MHz GPU/Shaders, 1050 MHz (4200 MT/s) GDDR5 Memory
Hard Drive
Samsung Spinpoint F4 HD322GJ/U
320 GB, 7200 RPM, 16 MB Cache
Unchanged
Sound
Integrated 7.1-Channel HD Audio
Unchanged
Network
Integrated Gigabit Networking
Unchanged
Power
Antec Earthwatts Green 380 W
Unchanged
Optical
Lite-On 24x DVD Burner SATA iHAS 124-04
Unchanged
Software and Drivers
Operating System
Windows 7 Ultimate Edition x64
Unchanged
Graphics Driver
Nvidia 260.99 WHQL
Unchanged
Platform Driver
AMD All-in-1 Ver. 8.631_W7_logo
Unchanged
Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Crysis
Patch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, No AA
DiRT 2
in-game benchmark, DX11
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x AA
Call of Duty: Modern Warefare 2
Campaign, Act III, Second Sun (45 sec. FRAPS)
Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA
Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call Of Pripyat
Call Of Pripyat Benchmark version
Test Set 1: High Preset, DX11 EFDL, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX11 EFDL, 4x MSAA
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunes
Version:9.0.2.25 x64
Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min
Default format AAC
HandBrake 0.9.4
Version 0.9.4
Convert first .vob file from The Last Samurai (1 GB) to .mp4, High Profile
TMPGEnc 4.0 Xpress
Version: 4.7.3.292
Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes)
Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX 6.9.1
Encoding mode: Insane Quality
Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4
Quarter-pixel search
Xvid 1.2.2
Display encoding status = off
MainConcept Reference 1.6.1
MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kbp/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Productivity
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010
Version: 11.0 x64, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 9.0
Version: 9.0.663, Virus base: 270.14.1/2407, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
WinRAR 3.90
Version x64 3.90, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
7-Zip
Version 4.65: Format=Zip, Compression=Ultra, Method=Deflate, Dictionary Size=32 KB, Word Size=128, Threads=8, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
Adobe Photoshop CS4
Version 11.0 Extended (64-bit)
Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates filters
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark Vantage
Version: 1.0.2, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark Vantage
Version: 1.0.1.0 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2010
Version 2010.1.16.11, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
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111 comments
    Your comment
  • LuckyDucky7
    And this is really the only PC build that will stay relevant come January- it will remain the only budget platform that can be overclocked, after all.

    Incidentally, this would be the only PC you'd want to contemplate building right now (since the new Core i3s don't come out immediately like the i5s and i7s do- and the Pentium G8XX series doesn't allow overclocking of its platform.)
    5
  • Tamz_msc
    Ah, much better than the previous build!
    5
  • Proximon
    Great job squeezing everything into a very small budget.
    2
  • adbat
    Good build - but again it would be good to see old spec on test system page.
    2
  • rohitbaran
    That is a great combination for that budget. Balanced.
    2
  • yyk71200
    I wouldn't be very comfortable using a 380 watt PSU for a long time for GTX 460 even if it is good quality. Perhaps, I would put in something of 450 watt or higher.
    -1
  • Crashman
    LuckyDucky7And this is really the only PC build that will stay relevant come January- it will remain the only budget platform that can be overclocked, after all.Incidentally, this would be the only PC you'd want to contemplate building right now (since the new Core i3s don't come out immediately like the i5s and i7s do- and the Pentium G8XX series doesn't allow overclocking of its platform.)
    So you think there's going to be a replacement platform for the $2000 PC in January? That's not going to happen for a while. Or are you suggesting the next $2000 PC should be downgraded to P67?
    0
  • dragoon190
    I haven't been keeping up with the system marathon much, but what's the reasoning for choosing nVidia card over AMD's? Just wondering since I'm thinking about upgrading my computer soon.
    1
  • jj463rd
    A really nice build this time.However the price of the case and power supply has gone up in price over at newegg.I haven't checked the prices of the other components though.This build seems to perform quite well especially in the gaming benchmarks.Good job!
    0
  • tstng
    I would've gone with a 6850 instead of the 460. It's a tad cheaper, not at all slower if you don't start cranckin' up the tesselation, and should fit the 380W psu a lot better. But a solid build by all means.
    0
  • tstng
    I just noticed you guys used a 768mb 460. Oops. So it's a very good build, the 6850 would go over buget I guess. My bad.
    1
  • pauldh
    adbatGood build - but again it would be good to see old spec on test system page.

    Crowds it a bit IMO, but I'd gladly include the previous test settings from here on out.
    For now, here's a direct link:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-pc-build-a-pc-overclock,2739-8.html
    1
  • pauldh
    yyk71200I wouldn't be very comfortable using a 380 watt PSU for a long time for GTX 460 even if it is good quality. Perhaps, I would put in something of 450 watt or higher.

    No fears here. Keep in mind, this 380W has a higher +12V rating than many 500W units. And, the 280W peak output draw in Prime 95+Furmark is far higher than would ever be seen during normal use.

    On the down side it could limit multiple (simultaneous)upgrades such as a hexa-core CPU + additional storage drives. But the EarthWatts 380D has plenty reserve for this system as built.
    4
  • karma831
    There are a lot of RAM kits which do include heat spreaders, have higher frequencies, lower CL, and are can be had for less than $65. Was there any particular reason for choosing that set of Mushkin's?
    0
  • pauldh
    dragoon190I haven't been keeping up with the system marathon much, but what's the reasoning for choosing nVidia card over AMD's? Just wondering since I'm thinking about upgrading my computer
    soon.

    Basically it was the best available option within budget, trumping the cheaper/less powerful Radeon HD 5770 used back in the June $550 PC: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/cpu-gpu-overclock,2659.html

    If you compare those past results to the current rig, you may notice less CPU limitations and higher framerates at low resolutions for the Radeon HD 5770, but more headroom to push higher resolutions (1080P) with the GeForce GTX 460. Both are fine choices, depending on budget and needs.
    -1
  • pauldh
    karma831There are a lot of RAM kits which do include heat spreaders, have higher frequencies, lower CL, and are can be had for less than $65. Was there any particular reason for choosing that set of Mushkin's?

    Purely timing Karma. RAM has dropped significantly since we ordered our components. Ours was $65 at order time which was then the starting point for 4GB kits. Currently, this same kit is $42 on Newegg, and there are a slew of options under $50. Not bad considering prior to September a 4GB kit was $100 or more.

    Unlike Thomas, who sought performance for the $2000 build but was duped by receiving different RAM chips than expected, my choice here was purely based on the cheapest option and I hadn't noticed the Easter Egg in the photo. Like him, unfortunately, I received the same "nameless" chips with little headroom for higher frequency.
    0
  • Anonymous
    What about GTS 450? Is it a good choice for this CPU? As it seems that GTX460 is an overkill for lower resolutions :)
    -1
  • pauldh
    jj463rdA really nice build this time.However the price of the case and power supply has gone up in price over at newegg.I haven't checked the prices of the other components though.This build seems to perform quite well especially in the gaming benchmarks.Good job!

    Price fluctuations are bound to happen and for a bit the case was even cheaper yet. The current cost of this system is $512 on Newegg as the cheaper RAM helps balance out.
    The bargain shopper would seek substitutions; One option is the EA380D PSU for $45 and a different case. Ex: the Rosewill Blackbone (used in the $400 build) is $40. Alternate GTX 460's could save an additional $20 and get the cost well under $500.
    0
  • dEAne
    Thank you - Now I have something to compare and recommend - It helps a lot.
    0
  • pauldh
    tstngI just noticed you guys used a 768mb 460. Oops. So it's a very good build, the 6850 would go over buget I guess. My bad.

    Yes true, but more importantly the HD 6850 was not yet available when we ordered, so it wasn't even an option. Thanks to that release, there are now less expensive GTX 460's also than the lone option we had at $160.

    Moving forward, you bet I'll have my sights set on 6850 if possible. But it will depend on the budget and street prices vs the competition. It's not about brand, but rather the best/most bang for the buck.
    0